Maculopathy following exposure to visible and infrared radiation from a laser pointer: a clinical case study

Doc Ophthalmol. 2016 Apr;132(2):147-55. doi: 10.1007/s10633-016-9530-5. Epub 2016 Feb 26.


Purpose: Laser pointer devices have become increasingly available in recent years, and their misuse has caused a number of ocular injuries. Online distribution channels permit trade in devices which may not conform to international standards in terms of their output power and spectral content. We present a case study of ocular injury caused by one such device.

Methods: The patient was examined approximately 9 months following laser exposure using full-field and multifocal electroretinography (ERG and MF-ERG), electrooculography (EOG), and optical coherence tomography (OCT), in addition to a full ophthalmological examination. MF-ERG, OCT, and the ophthalmological examination were repeated 7 months after the first examination. The output of the laser pointer was measured.

Results: Despite severe focal damage to the central retina visible fundoscopically and with OCT, all electrophysiological examinations were quantitatively normal; however, qualitatively the central responses of the MF-ERG appeared slightly reduced. When the MF-ERG was repeated 7 months later, all findings were normal. The laser pointer was found to emit both visible and infrared radiation in dangerous amounts.

Conclusion: Loss of retinal function following laser pointer injury may not always be detectable using standard electrophysiological tests. Exposure to non-visible radiation should be considered as a possible aggravating factor when assessing cases of alleged laser pointer injury.

Keywords: ERG; MF-ERG; OCT; Ocular laser injury.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Electrooculography
  • Electroretinography / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays / adverse effects*
  • Lasers / adverse effects*
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Retina / physiopathology
  • Retina / radiation effects*
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Retinal Diseases / etiology
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Visual Acuity